Tips for providing your adolescent with an enriching, productive summer

Tips for providing your adolescent with an enriching, productive summer

School is out next week for us. While I'm excited at the fun and freedom it brings, I'm always a little nervous when we are looking at some time out of routine. That's why I'm excited to welcome guest poster Karen Jacobson here with tips for providing your adolescent with an enriching, productive summer.

She is both school counselor and family therapist and she's sharing some of her thoughts on how parents can help their tweens and teens get off the couch, have fun, and grow during these next few months. Here's to each family member making the most out of summer!


Summer is upon us and school’s almost out. This transition weighs heavily on the minds’ of parents with adolescents. Why? No school=less structure. How do you peel your son away from video games? How do you effectively encourage your daughter to cut down the time on social media? How do you get them outside and active? How do parents actually get their kids to spend the summer months productively?

I’ve worked with adolescents for years as a Certified Parent Educator and Family Therapist and the School Counselor at Catherine Cook School, and I know how critical the days spent away from school are to a student’s development.

To enrich your adolescent’s summer experience, consider these five tips: 

Tip #1: Fight the summer slide

Did you know most students lose about two month of grade level equivalency in math computation skills over the summer? Many students lose more than this in reading achievement. It’s critical to find fun avenues to keep your student learning over the summer – even in unconventional ways.

Some adolescent-friendly ideas might include writing in a journal or diary, penning song lyrics, building a bird feeder, baking a cake or cooking dinner, planning your family’s vacation (including budget!), or simply reading.

Tip #2: Cater to your child’s interests, not their friends’ interests

The most popular summer activities are not necessarily the right ones for your child.

Perhaps most teens you know are involved in sports programs over the summer, but your child would rather hold a job at a local water park. As long as activities are providing structure, safety and building their skill sets, adolescents’ summer months should look different.

Tip #3: Hear your child out

If adolescents are pushing back about getting involved in a certain activity, that might just be totally OK! Not every child has to go to a sleep away camp, volunteer at the animal shelter, or hold a regular babysitting job.

Have conversations with your children about their interests, seek to understand their reasoning for wanting or not wanting to do something and brainstorm other summer activities that are worthwhile, productive and fun.

Tip #4: Encourage socialization

Summer is not a time to hole up inside day after day.

Today’s youth ages 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day engaged with some type of screen. Parents should help kids be productive online (blogging, programming, designing a game, etc.) and limit screen time. Instead, with adequate supervision, adolescents should be spending time together.

Days spent hiking, swimming or playing sports outside with friends hone socialization skills, build comradery and heighten youths’ self-esteem. Plus, don’t forget that summer is a great time to socialize as a family as often as possible.

Teens may not show it, but family time adds a lot of value to their lives.

Tip #5: Increase exposure to new experiences

Go with your child to a museum they’ve never been to, encourage them to volunteer for a unique community-focused organization, kayak on Lake Michigan or plant vegetables if they’ve never gardened before. If you live in the city, take your kids to the country for a day!

Adolescence is the time for youth to learn about the world and navigate their place in it, something that can’t be done by always maintaining the status quo.

In the end, it’s important to remember we do play a prominent role in our children’s day-to-day lives while they’re not at school – even the older ones’! If it means expanding their horizons and adding more of the fun factor, they’ll look back and thank us.


Have any summer tips to add? I’d love to read them in the comments.

karenKaren Jacobson is currently the School Counselor at Catherine Cook School, a preschool-8th grade school in Old Town that focuses on excellent academics, intentional character development and a seamless integration of cutting-edge technology. She has over 10 years of experience working with children and teens in both private and Chicago inner city schools, gaining expertise in challenging behavior, school and peer issues, stress and anxiety, and more. She is also a Certified Parent Educator and Licensed Marriage/Family Therapist as well as a Clinical Professional Counselor. As a therapist and coach, she has worked with children, adolescents, adults, couples and families for over 20 years to empower personal and relational growth, emotional wellness and joy. Jacobson holds a Bachelor’s in psychology from Vanderbilt and a Master’s in counseling/psychology from Northwestern.

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